First ambient powered screen runs on office lights

The Microsoft screen marks the first time that ambient light has been used to power a screen. Pic: Microsoft 

Microsoft Research has developed a screen that can be powered by office lighting, the first time such a device has been created.

In its current form the device is being described as an electronic Post-It note , which can be programmed to show up-to-date information such as weather reports and public transport timetables.

The device features photovoltaic cells that harvest energy from their surroundings, meaning the screen never needs to be charged.

‘Unlike a computer screen or TV, the e-ink screen doesn’t require any power to maintain the image,’ commented Tobias Grosse-Puppendahl, who helped to developed the device.

‘That means that we only need a small amount of energy, which we can collect from the ambient light in an office using a solar panel on the back.’

The screen is still in the very early stages of development and it is currently unclear how the device could be harnessed to produce the best environmental benefits, or if the reader is even commercially viable as a consumer product.

Although the current screen is e-ink based, it doesn’t take much of a jump of the imagination to visualise the idea being developed as a replacement to conventional mains-powered computer screens. The environmental and cost-cutting benefits that this could produce would be incalculable.

The Microsoft screen marks the first time that ambient light has been used to power a screen, but there have been attempts to utilise ambient light in offices before. Last year researchers at the University of Washington suggested that wi-fi signals could be manipulated to power electronic devices.

The technology developed on the back of this idea was able to convert radio wave energy from a standard router into electricity.

  • You can find out more about office lighting at this year's Lux Live. The event will be held in London on Wednesday 23  November and Thursday 24 November 2016. Registration is free and you can find out more here.